A glittering generality is a propaganda statement that is designed to connect with audience members by speaking to the beliefs and/or values that are dear to them. The intent of this kind of statement is to create a favorable impression in the minds of message recipients. The goal is for those who receive the message to identify with the statement and whatever idea, product, service, or political candidate it is designed to promote. Discover some glittering generalities examples and learn more about this communication device.
Glittering generalities are a commonly used propaganda device. The goal of using a glittering generality is always to influence audience members in favor of an idea, concept, product, or person. A glittering generality is a vague, "feel good" statement that people are predisposed to want to identify with because of how they see it linking to what they already believe, or want to believe. They are often used in advertising or political campaign slogans, sayings or catchphrases.
Rather than being based on substance, statistics or facts, a glittering generality is a vague statement or slogan that appeals to people on an emotional level. The statement doesn't convey concrete information but is rather open to being interpreted by recipients in whatever favorable way appeals to them. Glittering generalities often seek to win over the hearts and minds of audience members by appealing to ideas like:
- family values
- good vs. evil
- hope for peace
- patriotism/love of country
Glittering generalities aren't demonstrably true or false because they don't actually convey any information. Whatever meaning is conveyed via a glittering generality is specific to how it is interpreted by those who receive and identify with the message. The statement itself might lead people to draw certain conclusions, but they don't do so directly. Instead, such individuals glean their own meaning from the vague statement.
There are many glittering generalities examples most commonly seen in advertising, political campaigns and messages designed to sway public opinion.
In advertising campaigns, marketers seek to link the products or services they are promoting directly to an idea or concept that members of the target audience are predisposed to find appealing. This is often done via brand or product slogans, as well as catchphrases or taglines.
- Because I'm Worth It (L'Oreal makeup)
- Built Ford Tough (Ford Motor Company's trucks)
- Eat Fresh (Subway sandwiches)
- Find New Roads (Chevrolet cars)
- Full Spectrum — Full Synergy (Porsche luxury automobiles)
- I'm Lovin' It (McDonald's fast food)
- It's the Real Thing (Coca Cola soda/pop)
- Just Do It (Nike athletic wear)
- Let's Go Places (Toyota automobiles)
- Smell Like Your Own Man, Man (Old Spice men's grooming products)
- That's What I Like (Pepsi soda)
- The Best a Man Can Get (Gilette razors)
- The Best Part of Waking Up (Folgers coffee)
- Unlike Any Other (Mercedes Benz luxury automobiles)
- We Can Do It! (World War II Rosie the Riveter slogan for woman production workers)
Political campaign promoters who use glittering generalities spread their messages far and wide, hoping that they'll result in the bandwagon effect. The same glittering generalities will be featured in political ads, talking points for TV interviews, digital media, posters, hats, t-shirts, and more. The examples below have all been used in presidential campaigns.
- Build Back Better (Joe Biden)
- Not Me. Us. (Bernie Sanders)
- Make America Great Again/MAGA (Donald Trump)
- Change We Can Believe In (Barrack Obama)
- Yes We Can (Barrack Obama)
- Forward Together (Hilary Clinton)
- Country First (John McCain)
- A Safer World and a More Hopeful America (George W. Bush)
- For People, for a Change (Bill Clinton)
- A Kinder, Gentler Nation (George H.W. Bush)
- Let's Make American Great Again (Ronald Reagan)
- A Leader, For a Change (Jimmy Carter)
- Vote Like Your Whole World Depended on It (Richard Nixon)
- A Time for Greatness (John F. Kennedy)
- The Buck Stops Here (Harry Truman)
If you find yourself feeling swept up by a slogan or saying that appeals to your values and beliefs, stop and ask yourself whether the words you find appealing contain factual information or if they represent a glittering generality. Use your critical thinking skills to determine what meaning, if any, is being conveyed by the phrase.
- What is the literal meaning of this phrase or slogan?
- What is the motivation of the person or organization that the message comes from?
- Does the slogan convey a substantive message, or it is just designed to get an emotional reaction?
- Is any conclusion you are reaching as a result of the statement truly based on logic?
- Is there verifiable factual information that connects the phrase to the idea or concept to which the phrase seems to be linked?
- What substantive action, if any, is being proposed or suggested by the statement?
- Is the driving idea behind the statement one that truly has merits on its own?
- Would you still find the saying to be appealing if it came from a different source?
Considering the answers to the questions above before you buy into a glittering generality can help prevent you from being deceived or duped by this type of propaganda device. While you can't control whether marketers or promoters use glittering generalities, it's up to you to decide whether to let this type of strategy influence you.
Now that you are familiar with what glittering generality is and have reviewed some glittering generalities examples, take the time to learn about some other potentially questionable communication strategies. Start by reviewing some examples of doublespeak, so you'll be able to recognize the signs that a message sender might be distorting the truth or hiding facts. From there, explore some examples of yellow journalism, so you'll know how to recognized sensationalized information presented as if it were news.